Functioning Alcoholic Behavior vrs Extreme Dysfunctional Behavior

woman near a windowGuest Submission From: Debbie

I saw two others like me who question whether alcohol was the only problem–others like me seem to have a more functioning alcoholic they were dealing with and I am still I guess trying for my “what happened” as I did not see the extremes that others have posted. Is there a way to address those with “functioning alcoholics and their behavior” because there seems to be a world of difference from my point of view anyway.

Appreciate any suggestions.
Thank you.
Please feel free to leave a comment below the article.

JC: Thanks for sharing with us Debbie. AA says that alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. I’ve known several functioning alcoholics, one of which was a close relative.

Functioning Alcoholic #1
He was a successful self-employed businessman. His normal routine was to awaken in the morning, read the newspaper, watch the stock reports while drinking coffee and then off to work he would go around 10:30. At noon he would go to the Elks club and have a few drinks during lunch. He would then return to his business that was less than five minutes away from his favorite drinking hole. He would work for about three to four more hours and then go back to the Elks Lodge for more mixed drinks.
Party Woman
He would then return home, eat dinner alone and watch TV in his recliner as he drifted in and out of sleep (usually with a mixed drink on the coffee table) until it was bedtime. Even though he seemed to be functional, there were times when he was extremely unreasonable and hard to associate with due to drunken behavior. He was not a violent man and had a very tender heart. He was just difficult to associate with when he had a lot of alcohol in his system. In the forty years that I knew him, he never got a DUI. I was sometimes amazed that he was able to actually drive. I suppose he knew all the back roads where the police rarely hung out.

His wife was a regular participant in the AA program and often said that he was a good man in spite of his drinking problem.  She often shared how grateful she was because he was such a wonderful provider. She had never had to work a day in her life. She also said that her family had always been cared for by the functioning alcoholic.  Even though she spent many nights married to a functioning alcoholic she still felt as though she was alone (without an intimate connection)  in the marriage because of his drunken state.

He also had children who he was NEVER very close to. He would spend time with them, but it was never quality time. Their interactions usually surrounded the TV and centered on watching football while he was getting drunk on a Saturday or  Sunday afternoon.

Functioning Alcoholic #2
Now, I also was close friends with a functioning alcoholic who was the extreme opposite. He eventually committed suicide. My friend held down a forty hour a week job. He was the kind of person who would help his friends out without reservation when asked. On the dysfunctional side of his behavior, he suffered from low self-esteem and overindulgence in substance abuse.

When the weekend rolled around, he always partied to the extreme by getting drunk and then needing cocaine to lift him out of his drunken state. Once Sunday was over, he went back to being a hard-working man all week.

Oftentimes, while being intoxicated,  he would get into extreme verbal arguments with people that sometimes would end in physical fights. Usually the people he fought with were either putting him down, treating him as being worthless or cheating on him (as was the case for many years with his user girlfriend). I saw so many of his party friends take advantage of his good nature and use him for his money, and the drugs that he would buy.

The thing is that people he associated with at work had no idea that he was such a party animal because of his wonderful work ethics.

Functioning Alcoholic #3
I also knew  someone who I considered an abusive alcoholic. Only the people closest to her knew how critical, unreasonable and unpredictably mean she could be. She too was a functioning alcoholic with a very dysfunctional personality that was deceitfully hidden underneath the surface.  She had no problem with work ethics at all. In fact,  she appeared to be a workaholic at times. The sad part of her story is that her drinking and drugging created such turmoil in her family relations and friendships outside work.

In all of these stories about functioning alcoholics and their behavior, the one thing they all have in common are dysfunctional relationships. It doesn’t matter if an alcoholic is functional or dysfunctional, their addictive behaviors always have negative affects on the people they are closest to. One may not have issues with anger, but they may be so addicted to the alcohol that they leave their alcoholic spouse longing for intimacy.

What is your relationship like with the person addicted to alcohol?

Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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72 comments to Functioning Alcoholic Behavior vrs Extreme Dysfunctional Behavior

  • Karens

    You are all gaining wisdom and strength. When we chose our spouse most of us
    would not expect alcoholism to be our third party competition. If THE alcoholic
    chose to not drink we would all be better off and every one around us. But
    that just doesn’t seem to happen. We respond in a down ward spiral. We deny the
    problem exists until it absolutely smacks us in the head. We anaylize how we
    got into this place of depression, self deprecation, and lost our way. This
    journey we are on taught me to love my self, take care of my self, find a new
    sense of humour and above all to love God and dedicate my self to his goodness.
    I found it to be no cakewalk. There are hard choices, days when you say to yourself
    to not let the alcoholic interfer with the joy in your day. So it was a day when
    the birds singing brought a smile to your heart. I now have a greater life, filled
    with appreciation of every day being pleasant in someway and dwell on that. Alcoholism controls every one around the alcoholic and I refuse to let that life style rent
    space in my head. Now he is a slowly dying alcoholic. I must let go and trust
    God to finish this journey in HIS way. What is left on this journey with the
    alcoholic seeking his own demise has yet to be seen. I envy not what some of you
    are going through. As I pray I will ask for a greater love from HIM for you to
    find your way and for all of us to heal from this experience.

  • TUMI

    Thank you Karen for the inspirational message.Indeed some days are better than others.What bugs me about my AH is that now he’s no longer working he thinks I should take care of the house,pay all the bills and even fix his car so he can use it as a taxi to get money to finance his habits.NO WAY!I’m done with being an enabler.He quit his job eight months ago and is now so comfortable with his life he aint looking for another.He doesn’t have to pay bills, doesn’t have to buy food and doesn’t need to wake up every morning to go to work.I’ve been waiting for him to hit rock bottom so he can realise the damage alcohol has done to our lives but it just aint happening.Why?I pay all the bills.I don’t have much of a choice coz there are kids to consider.Moving out is a tough decision to make.I have major exams in a months time and changing environment is just not an option right now.I do pray everyday for God to take control of the situation.

  • Bill

    Zita, the good news is that you are taking care of yourself and letting go of the alcoholics in your life. It takes work to do both of those. I know what brings serenity into my life is having the ability to love the alcoholics I am interacting with without conditions. As long as I take care of me it doesn’t matter if the alcoholic is functional or dysfunctional. It can be a lonely life sometimes, but I stay connected with my church friends to help ease the loneliness.

  • Pez

    Dear Tumi, You alcoholic boyfriend is not going to change in this situation, It’s PERFECT for the alcoholic!! No work, drink all day, no holds bar! No responsibility. This is their dream. When the situation is right, tell him to get a job or get OUT! His telling you to fix his car so he can get his drug etc…Not on top of that NO sympathy or consideration for you health conditions or peace–HE’s advanced and feels entiteled to live a life of ease and indulgence at YOUR expense–monetarily and emotionally and every other way he can take advantage of you!! Find a way out!
    I scenced my XAB wanted this too. To move in with him cause I have my own business and eventually, maybe, I could support him. I was like NO way! It gives me pleasure he is now with someone on disability and there is no way he can leave his job. He must work to pay the bills for him and her! I think this is why they BITCH about their job all the time–it is an encomberment to their addiction!

  • Debbi

    Deb & Ross:
    You are both absolutely right. Deb is so right that first I need to love myself because there is not nor has been anyone who offered true love but not sure about being able to heal my own body on this one but a better attitude will definitely improve my chances on next surgery. And Ross yes we are going through a detox or withdrawal of sorts from the life we had and change is hard. I never minded change, I learned to accept loss but I needed time & space to do that and finally it seems my mail & legal problems are winding down–I hope they are so I can finally get some much deserved peace & quiet at my house!

  • Mike

    I am mad at myself, for not seeing what was in front of me before I got married.
    I knew very little about the addiction. Had I known, I would have still been single.

  • stacy

    Hey this is Stacy, I am the one who has a boyfriend who is an alcoholic and is criticizing, arrogant, selfish and rude. I guess I just need someone to talk to tonight. Things have gone way downhill for us. He has changed towards me a lot lately. He is no telling me I’m smothering him, always in his back pocket and that I try too hard when it comes to sex, when I am NOT acting any differently than I had the entire two and a half years we have been together. He is still drinking beer heavily But really no more than he has the entire time we’ve been together. His desire for me has lessened extremely And it seems that all he can do is make negative comments about me. I just left his house And came home because I wanted to talk. He just kept telling me to shut up And that he just wanted to sleep. He refused to take just 5 minutes to have a small discussion about our problem And chose to be rude and hateful instead. And yes he had probably polished off over 15 beers For the day along with two glasses of wine in the evening. I just decided that I did not deserve to be talked to like that And I told him I think that we just need to get away from each other for a while. I guess we’ll see what the outcome of this is If I can just be strong and stick to my guns.

  • SC

    Stacy, I know it is easier said than done, but, you have a home to go to, please stay home. A’s are something else. Think about it, you try to hard when it comes to sex.
    What man is going to say that. A’s can always find something to get mad about.
    I think they all (most) have serious problems even if you take away the alcoholic. My father quit drinking 17 years b4 he died and when he got mad, he blamed me for his behavior (until I left home). I hope you find the strength and wisdom to stay away and find someone capable of loving you. I know it’s not easy but we all need someone that will be on our team, not against us.

  • Pez

    Stacy, Never talk to an alcoholic when he is intoxicated-it’s futile. About sex when he’s intoxicated==forget it! Unless you have some Viagra! You should know by now alcohol makes it hard for a man to get an erection. You shouldn’t anyway when he’s drunk or you will just be used as he won’t remember much. As it gets worse, the alcoholic, so does the sex life go down hill. He’ll want it less and less as the disease/addiction progresses. I agree with SC even though it’s hard. Start dating and don’t answer his calls. Your love won’t save him!! Don’t learn the hard way like many of us had to wasting our time trying to save them. It only gets worse.

  • stacy

    Thank you so much SC and Pez. SC, for the past 4 weeks, things for us have been worsening. We have always had a rough relationship with him being extremely jealous and insecure in the beginning but our sex life has always been uninhibited by anything. Now I am being told that I am always in his back pockett , smothering him and creeping him out. I’m sorry but I have been feeling pretty insecure about our relationship lately. Yes, he is an alcoholic but I have learned ways to tolerate and deal with him BUT I can’t take the hatefulness and the bad character judgements that he has been accusing me of lately.

    Pez, he has always drank this many beers daily and we didn’t have this issue. I guess that’s part of being a functional alcoholic. He is just seeing me in a different light now, for some reason. May be its because I have spent so much time with him, giving up some of my responsibilities just to be with him. I know that he has deep issues and the alcohol I guess is his band aid. This will be tough for me to be away and I do still love him a lot but I can’t love him to the point of continuing letting him beat me down with cruel words. See, I am confused because he always talks about what we will do in our future but is indifferent to my hurt when I try to talk to him. He now has been telling me that I am just another crazy woman when I used to be the only normal sane woman he ever met

  • stacy

    Thank you all so much. I hope I have the strength to stay away!

  • stacy

    Thank you SC and Pez! I hope I have the strength to stay away. I love this man so much.

  • Pez

    Woah, Busy day, Good day!! : ). Stacy it is rewarding to see people listen to the advice on this site weather by JC or posts. Keep reading. He may be “functional” now but it won’t be like that if he keeps indulging. It will eventually go downhill with his heath, job, and whatever else. I don’t know why his attitude has changed with you but there is a reason! It will come out.

  • JC

    Stacy, I took a little while to pull together a few article that may help:

    Living With An Angry Alcoholic
    My Expectations Of The Alcoholic
    My Alcoholic Makes Me Feel Worthless
    Changing My Attitude Towards The Addict

    Today, I hope that we can all:

    1-Stay present and enjoy the moment through avoiding past issues or fearing the future. Live life one moment at time.
    2-Be kind and compassionate to ourselves. We’ve all been through a lot.
    3-Find things to do that will bring moments of joy into our lives “as” we let go of the substance abuser long enough to live life and have an absolute BLAST without them.
    4-Forgive ourselves and the addicts in our lives, and make a new start of things.
    5-Be grateful for the good things in life.
    6-Do something nice for someone who will appreciate what we have done.
    7-Avoid stepping in front of a locomotive and trying to stop it.
    9-Listen to our favorite music
    10-Take time to give love to someone who will appreciate it, pets included.

  • stacy

    Thank You JC! Your care and concern for everyone who post on here means so much. I am so thankful that we all have this website where I personally always benefit from 🙂

  • stacy

    Thank You JC! Your care and concern for everyone who post on here means so much. I am so that we all have this website where I personally always benefit from 🙂

  • Zita

    You are so right when you say it is a lonely life. I keep myself very busy with my crafts and looking after my home. There are times though that I would just like to pack it all in. At those times, I think to myself that there has got to be more to life than this. I have to count my blessings however and remind myself that my husband is a good person and that I made this commitment 40 years ago “for better or worse”. I have mixed emotions about it all.

  • Pez

    Well, have just found out a few things about my XAB and his Convienience girl. Talked to his X Wife and daughter. He is going down fast. Don’t know how long he will remain being a Functional A with his job. The New girl IS drinking with him and enabling him so to secure a place to live and get all she can. She’s a manipulator like him. He has missed a child support payment and has not made it up. He texts his 17 year old daughter drunk and uses profanity. One thing came together when his X wife went to Texas to see there son a whole sheet cake was thrown at her door and T Paper wrapped around several trees, this also happened at my Salon at the same time T Paper was wrapped around one of my bushes–so we know it was him and her. They are going down to childish levels getting drunk and stupid. She will feed into his hatred and support his views of it’s our fault. He is still on probation, taken off the ankle bracelet and put on several times a day breathalyzer, which he is fooling too–damn he’s good! The daughter is being badly affected so she is back in counseling. Hope the X wife will contact probation I encouraged. She’s afraid of loosing child support but hope she calls, It’s for his own good. He is out of his mind and out of control now getto chick enables his behavior and not caring even how he affects his 17 year old!

  • Debbi

    I am sorry to hear that your ex is destroying your property. It’s a hurtful thing when they do that–I had that several times after mine left as well. In some ways though you now know that everyone is seeing his behavior which validates your choice to leave. Hang in there, sounds like he’s mad at the world so take care of yourself.

  • Pez

    Well, I just removed the T Paper from the bush. No destruction, but I am watching. He is mad at the world and everyone who does not “accept” his drinking as Normal Behavior including his kids. One thing good that has come of this is I am starting to see the “disease” part per say of this addiction and have a bit more compassion for him and not all bitterness. It’s a delicate balance! Who in the world would want to be so childish at 50ish and hurt his kids–normal person NOT. He’s going down now he has no holds bar with the enabler. His death would not give me joy. He’s at the point if no help accepted he will die or go to jail. The compulsive stage where he can’t quit and needs help. All you can do is pray. For his children, I pray for recovery.

  • Debbi

    You can expect more & like you told me 2 months ago–he is the one doing it. It got quiet for 2 months but 2 days ago someone broke into my old email account and started sending emails everywhere. I can never be sure who does this but you & I both know that since we left the ex’s these things started so it only makes sense. Just keep a look out. Yes 50 something and still hurting his children. Mine soon to be 60 and doing the same thing to his 36 year old daughter–telling her lies & getting her to do his dirty work for him. I pray for the daughters but hope they wake up like we did and stop enabling them. You’re in my thoughts–keep a watchful eye.

  • […] He is a functioning alcoholic and never misses work. I am lucky he is not violent or destructive but he is snarky and belittling. I rationally understand that it is his problem and he has to make the decision to stop and that it is not my fault but each slip is like one more small cut, one more bleeding site in our marriage. I rationally realize that voicing my frustration and disappointment over the slips is not going to benefit anyone but it sure feels as though I am giving him a free pass. It feels like I am watching my teenager walk in after curfew and shrugging my shoulders. […]

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